I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on May 24, 2018, by the hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove concerning proceedings at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
In raising the matter, the member for Langley—Aldergrove explained that the appearance of three ministers, who were at the committee to discuss the main estimates for the department of Employment and Social Development, was interrupted by a series of votes taking place in the House. According to the member, the chair of the committee had promised that committee members would be able to question the ministers after they returned from voting. However, after the committee meeting resumed and the ministers finished their presentations, the chair adjourned the meeting, leaving committee members unable to put any questions to the ministers. This, the member alleged, constituted a contempt of the House.
As I said when the matter was first raised, committees are masters of their own proceedings. The Speaker’s jurisdiction does not normally extend into committee matters, unless the committee sees fit to report one to the House. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, at pages 152 and 153 states:
Speakers have consistently ruled that, except in the most extreme situations, they will hear questions of privilege arising from committee proceedings only upon presentation of a report from the committee which deals directly with the matter and not as a question of privilege raised by an individual Member.
Furthermore, on March 23, 2015, my predecessor said at page 12180 of the Debates:
This is not to suggest that the Chair is left without any discretion to intervene in committee matters but, rather, it acknowledges that such intervention is exceedingly rare and justifiable only in highly exceptional procedural as opposed to political circumstances.
In my consideration of this alleged question of privilege, I assessed whether if this was indeed a highly exceptional procedural matter. Distilled down to its basic elements, it seems to me that this is a dispute as to the procedural correctness of how the meeting was conducted and, as such, is a matter that should be managed by the committee itself.
As an option, the hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove can still raise his grievance with the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. For this reason, I cannot agree that the incident constitutes a prima facie question of privilege.
I thank members for their attention on this matter.